Gustav Klimt was an Austrian symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. Also he was a successful painter of unconventional architectural decorations.
Image source: https://www.biography.com/artist/gustav-klimt
Born in 1862, Austrian painter Gustav Klimt became known for the highly decorative style and erotic nature of his works, which were seen as a rebellion against the traditional academic art of his time. His most famous paintings are The Kiss and Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.
Gustav Klimt was born on the outskirts of Vienna, Austria, on July 14, 1862. His father, Ernst, was a struggling gold engraver who had immigrated to Vienna from Bohemia, and his mother, Anna, was musically talented, although she had never realized her dream of becoming a professional musician. Perhaps genetically predisposed to the arts, then, Klimt displayed a notable talent from an early age, and at 14 years old left his normal school to attend the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts on a full scholarship, no small matter considering both his youth and the relative poverty in which he had been raised. While at the institution, Klimt received a conservative, classical training that he readily accepted, and he focused his studies on architectural painting.
Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Klimt
The company of artists
Image source: http://art-klimt.com/early_works_11.html
Klimt’s horizons began to broaden, however, when his budding talent earned him various small commissions while he was still in school, and after his graduation in 1883, he opened a studio with his younger brother Ernst and their mutual friend Franz Masch. Calling themselves the Company of Artists, the trio agreed to focus their work on murals and also to set aside any personal artistic inclinations in favor of the historical style popular among Vienna’s upper class and aristocracy at that time. That decision proved to be a good one, as it not only won them numerous commissions to paint churches, theaters and other public spaces, but also allowed them to work interchangeably on their projects. Their most notable works during this time were the mural at the Vienna Burgtheater and the ceiling above the staircase at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Image source: https://secession.nyarc.org/exhibit
Klimt became one of the founding members and president of the Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession) in 1897 and of the group’s periodical, Ver Sacrum (“Sacred Spring”). He remained with the Secession until 1908. The goals of the group were to provide exhibitions for unconventional young artists, to bring the works of the best foreign artists to Vienna, and to publish its own magazine to showcase the work of members. The group declared no manifesto and did not set out to encourage any particular style—Naturalists, Realists, and Symbolists all coexisted. The government supported their efforts and gave them a lease on public land to erect an exhibition hall. The group’s symbol was Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of just causes, wisdom, and the arts—of whom Klimt painted his radical version in 1898.
Klimt’s Golden phase
Klimt’s ‘Golden Phase’ was marked by positive critical reaction and financial success. Many of his paintings from this period included gold leaf. Klimt had previously used gold in his Pallas Athene (1898) and Judith I (1901), although the works most popularly associated with this period are the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) and The Kiss (1907–08).
Image source: https://www.europosters.it/
As he worked and relaxed in his home, Klimt normally wore sandals and a long robe with no undergarments. His simple life was somewhat cloistered, devoted to his art, family, and little else except the Secessionist Movement. He avoided café society and seldom socialized with other artists. Klimt’s fame usually brought patrons to his door and he could afford to be highly selective. His painting method was very deliberate and painstaking at times and he required lengthy sittings by his subjects. Although very active sexually, he kept his affairs discreet and he avoided personal scandal. Klimt wrote little about his vision or his methods.